Central Alberta fire department robbed of emergency response equipment

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WATCH ABOVE: Members of the Innisfree Fire Department got a major shock earlier this month. Thousands of dollars worth of emergency response equipment had been stolen from their fire hall, including the jaws of life. Shallima Maharaj reports – Feb 27, 2016

EDMONTON – A volunteer fire department in central Alberta has been robbed of $30,000 worth of emergency response equipment.

Innisfree Fire Department also lost a generator used to light scenes they attend at night, a thermal camera, leaf blower and a cut-off saw. However, the costliest and most lucrative item taken was the jaws of life.

More than half of the calls Innisfree Fire Department responds to are vehicle collisions on the nearby highway, compounding the loss.

“We were lucky that our county fire chief replaced it quickly. We were down for about a week,” said Dean Lindballe, deputy chief, Innisfree Fire Department.

They relied on support from neighbouring departments in Mannville and Vegreville.

“It hurts us because that’s why we volunteer – because we’re trying to help our community,” said Lindballe.

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“It could have been terrible. Someone could have been trapped in a vehicle and we wouldn’t be able to help them.”

The RCMP has begun an investigation into the theft. Investigators in both Lloydminster and Vermilion have teamed up to look into the case.

Mounties said a cut-off saw turned up in Lloydminster weeks ago, although they would not disclose the circumstances surrounding that discovery. They tipped off village administrators, who then informed the fire department that they needed to check their gear.

“[I was] shocked and happy that we found it before we had to go to a scene and find out we didn’t have the equipment,” Lindballe told Global News on Saturday.

Police do not have any suspects in custody, but say there has been a rash of break-ins and thefts in the area.

“It’s definitely an increase over the last few years – likely due to the economic situation we’re currently facing here in Alberta,” said Cpl. Corey Buckingham with Vermilion RCMP.

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While the fire department has managed to replace some of what it lost, deputy chief Lindballe said he would welcome the return of those items with open arms.